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Resignations, complicity and impunity

January 13, 2016 at 2:43 pm

Once again, the UN is reaping the harvest of its colonial endeavours in Palestine. Last week, Makarim Wibisono, the organisation’s Special Rapporteur for the occupied Palestinian territories, announced his resignation, claiming that his mandate could not be fulfilled due to Israel’s repeated refusal to grant him entry into the territories.

“I took up this mandate with the understanding that Israel would grant me access, as an impartial and objective observer,” explained Wibisono. Although full of contradictions, Wibisono’s resignation, not only details Israel’s belligerence and impunity, but also depicts the illusions of impartiality and objectivity that the UN claims in order to retain its symbolic authority. Despite Wibisono’s diplomatic career having been far removed from the reality of Israel’s colonial project, an alleged “understanding” that access to the occupied Palestinian territories would be granted is nothing short of deception, given recurring evidence that colonial expansion is inherently a manifestation of guarded space that implements restrictions upon its external collaborators.

The resignation outlines several points. Although it may be perceived as harbouring a defeatist attitude, it sheds light upon the impunity that Israel has constructed and implemented within an international context. Its refusal to collaborate with international investigations has now become part of a well-documented narrative countered by supposedly thorough internal investigations that, predictably, contradict visible proof of human rights violations. According to his predecessor, Richard Falk, “Wibisono apparently gained the upper hand along with the acquiescence of Israel and the United States precisely because of his lack of any relevant background.”

Another illuminating statement from Wibisono is his “sincere hope” that his successor will manage to resolve the current impasse, “and so reassure the Palestinian people that after nearly a century of occupation the world has not forgotten their plight and that human rights are indeed universal.” The diplomatic jargon is unbefitting and absolves the UN of creating the conditions that allow Israel to thrive and expand, including acceptance of the colonial entity subjecting its officials to ridicule. Furthermore, the aim is not to channel displays of solidarity with the Palestinian people, but rather for the UN Special Rapporteur to highlight the colonial violence which has dispossessed and displaced Palestinians, and strengthened the fallacy of “universal” human rights.

Wibisono’s resignation has also further promoted Israeli impunity. Embodying a struggle against the known restrictions might not have instigated any immediate outcome. However, less rhetoric of concern and frustration, which plays directly into the dynamics espoused by Israel and the UN, and more incentive to assert adamantly the importance of Palestinian anti-colonial struggle would have facilitated a better understanding of the difference between political violence and legitimate resistance.

While acknowledging the intentional obstacles flaunted by Israel, the rapporteur’s resignation is also, unfortunately, an affirmation of surrender or, at best, discomfort. It has ultimately justified Israel’s manipulation of the territorial space it continues to usurp systematically. Considering the amount of information readily disseminated, Wibisono could have countered the lack of accessibility by utilising available information and trying to divest Israel of its impunity, rather than maintain the human rights propaganda discourse by assuming impartiality. In short, waving a white flag simply allows Israel to carry on with its human rights violations. That is not the UN’s role, nor should it be.

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